Innovation earns Tri-College award for M State's Mohn

September 8, 2020

Shannon Mohn

Technical skills weren’t enough to teach auto repair in the spring of 2020. Shannon Mohn needed ingenuity in his toolbox, too.

Mohn, an M State Automotive Technology instructor since 2009, was recognized for that ingenuity when he was selected this fall as a recipient of the Tri-College University Excellence in Innovation and Adaptive Education Awards.

One faculty member was chosen from each of the five Fargo Moorhead colleges and universities in the Tri-College consortium – M State, North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College and North Dakota State College of Science.

 “It was a nightmare, to put it lightly,” Mohn says of the abrupt need to convert all the Automotive labs to online learning last March. His solution involved two unlikely partners: His wife, Tracy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Emily.

For an hour each day, Mohn met with his students via Zoom and used PowerPoints, videos, drawings and lectures to teach automotive theory. Then for the traditionally hands-on labs, Mohn used videos shot by Tracy and Emily to bring his students into the lab to fix mechanical problems that he’d created.

For example, he shorted out a communications line in his wife’s car and, using scan tools and videos, he had students use a class discussion board to diagnose the malfunction. With videos he’d shot for various scenarios, he followed the advice of a consensus of his students.

“I’d take a video showing what they’d suggested,” he says. “If they went the wrong direction, I was going to go the wrong direction with them. I tried to keep it interesting, and I tried to keep it relevant. They were paying for this, so I needed to do it as good as I could.”

Mohn praises all of M State’s faculty, including fellow Automotive Technology instructors Allan Lineburg and Scott Ripplinger, for their innovation in adapting to online learning and the inspiration they provided to him. He’s also pursuing a four-year degree in operations management, so he drew on ideas from those courses, as well.

Personally, Mohn appreciates the need to protect both staff and students from COVID-19: Two years ago, after six years of dealing with pulmonary fibrosis, he had a double lung transplant. “COVID is my biggest worry right now,” he says. “I know what it’s like to be on a ventilator.”

Mohn was happy to return to on-campus labs this fall equipped with a mask and social distancing requirements, along with new-found video skills and expertise in using a wearable video camera.

“Sometimes we prefer to stay in the box, but when we go outside the box we learn a few things,” he says. “That’s not my quote, but it’s the truth.”

Recipients of the Tri-College award will receive a plaque and a $500 check from Tri-College and co-sponsor Xcel energy. Mohn was nominated for the award by M State administration.